Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Oprah's Solving Africa's Problems in One Fell Swoop

Originally posted at Prairie Wrangler

I'm not exactly Oprah Winfrey's #1 fan. In fact, I have never liked her much at all. Indeed, I hate her fucking guts. Ok, that's too far. But I really don't like her - her success was recently touted by National Geographic as one of the 10 greatest unsolved mysteries of the 20th century, and last year, she decided it would be in everyone's best interest for her to sue a fan with the criminal temerity to tout her as a presidential candidate. All that aside, I have opened my mind to see Oprah in the saintly light she so clearly deserves...

Why the change of heart? Well, true to her legendary reputation for philanthropy (remember when she gave that family a van?), Oprah has decided to fund a school, modestly named the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls:

Talk show star Oprah Winfrey is due to open her long-awaited school Tuesday -- fulfilling a promise she made to former President Nelson Mandela six years ago and giving more than 150 poor South African girls a chance for a better future.(...)

Oprah said she decided to build her own school because she was tired of charity from a distance.

"At a certain point, you want to feel that connection."

Well isn't that wonderful. Not only that, but the school would be appropriately comprehensive:

"Set on 22 lush acres and spread over 28 buildings, the complex features oversize rooms done in tasteful beiges and browns with splashes of color, 200-thread-count sheets, a yoga studio, a beauty salon, indoor and outdoor theaters..."

I must admit, 28 buildings for 152 children dwarfs my bereft Jr. High school, which was a pathetic single building establishment for a thousand kids. I'd say the intuitively appealing 5 children-per-building standard Oprah has employed here is not only essential for a successful learning environment, but far more reasonable and representative of the average quality of life found around the planet. So far, so great.

Sure, cynics might point out that the school costs $10m less than Oprah's house, but they simply don't know the resources that are needed to maintain Oprah's psychological well-being, and thus their opinions can be rejected out of hand. Other more rational skeptics might argue that the money could have been used more efficiently towards the alleviation of the disease and poverty which absolutely desecrates the continent - for example, the yoga studio could be easily replaced by a botox clinic, or the grounds crew could be replaced by personal chefs for each child. Such criticisms are perfectly reasonable, but are missing the point.

You see, Oprah wants to "feel a connection" to her charity work, so instead of donating an impersonal $40 million dollars to buy, oh I don't know, 4 million insecticide treated bednets for a continent where 1.3 million people a year die of malaria, she thinks that money is better spent on 200 thread count sheets for 152 little African girls.

I can kind of see her logic. If she was myopic enough to only fund bednets, it's more than likely (I don't have the statistics in front of me at present) that the people who would benefit from those bednets wouldn't have a yoga studio or 20 acres of warfare-free land to frolic in, exponentially increasing the likelihood that children in Africa will die from obesity-induced diabetes or high cholesterol levels from lack of exercise- essentially, it would be counterproductive.

I admit that providing bed nets for millions of people across sub-Saharan Africa seems like a good idea on the surface, but without providing those 4 million people with a beauty salon as well, you'd just be needlessly prolonging the life of ugly people, which flies in the face of everything Hollywood stands for.

In effect, Oprah has brilliantly designed a comprehensive education program in the philanthropic style of Jeffrey Sachs - no single step, whether it be bednets, luxurious sheets or yoga classes, can be effective in itself; all must be enacted in coordination with each other to ensure success. If you can get past your stubborn anti-Oprah prejudice, and really put some thought into it, $40m spent on 152 children makes flawless sense from a humanitarian standpoint.

One last point, that you may not have considered: what in the fuck is wrong with this lady?

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